Navigating the path to a successful and comprehensive Intranet redesign

Embarking on a successful intranet redesign project requires meticulous planning and thorough preparation. Before delving into the visual elements, feature prioritisation, or technical implementation, it is essential to establish a solid foundation. By following the comprehensive steps outlined in this article, you can ensure that your redesign process is efficient, targeted, and fully aligned with the needs of your users.

Before we begin, it is important to note that each organisation has its own distinct culture, requirements, and challenges. Therefore, while these steps serve as a comprehensive guide, it is crucial to adapt and tailor them to your specific context. With careful consideration and strategic implementation, you can set the stage for a successful user-centered intranet redesign that meets the unique needs of your organisation.

The initial phase

The initial phase of an exceptional intranet redesign process sets the groundwork for the new design. This phase involves several key steps, including assembling a competent intranet team, conducting thorough user research to identify needs and improvement opportunities, establishing a shared vision for the redesign project, and securing the necessary resources.

Team 1.Designate a capable leader to oversee the project2.Gather a skilled and diverse intranet team
Discovery and Assessment 3. Determine the driving factors behind the intranet redesign4. Conduct comprehensive user research, planning, and analysis

5. Map out the digital ecosystem within the organisation

Vision and Alignment 6. Engage stakeholders and solicit their input7. Ensure alignment with leaders and stakeholders regarding the vision for the intranet
Resource Allocation 8. Allocate appropriate resources for the redesign endeavour9. Develop user-centred artefacts that the intranet team can utilise regularly

10. Plan for system and operational requirements

11. Early adoption and awareness

Team

1. Designate a Leader

It is crucial to appoint a dedicated leader for the intranet redesign project. While many individuals may be involved and invested in the intranet, without a designated leader, there is a risk of assuming that someone else is taking charge. Having an official leader helps avoid diffusion of responsibility and ensures effective project management.

The intranet leader’s responsibilities include:

  • Creating a clear and compelling project vision and ensuring the team adheres to it.
  • Uniting and motivating team members towards a common goal.
  • Keeping upper management and stakeholders involved and supportive throughout the process.
  • Making decisive final decisions when necessary, despite distractions and politics.
  • Taking a holistic perspective on employee roles, user tasks, business requirements, digital tools, and maximising the intranet’s effectiveness.

Given that intranets often encompass news, announcements, events, benefits, policies, and system assistance, it is common for them to be owned and led by corporate communications, IT, HR, or a combination of these departments. In rarer cases, the ownership may reside with a dedicated web team or a specialised intranet or digital workplace team.

2. Assemble the Intranet Team

The formation of the intranet team typically occurs through one of three approaches:

  • Retaining the Existing Team: In cases where a team has already worked on the previous intranet design, it is beneficial to include them in the redesign project. This approach provides the advantage of having established team members with insights and experience in intranet design.
  • Engaging an External Agency: Some organisations opt to hire an agency to handle a significant portion or the entirety of the design and coding process. Agencies bring specialised expertise in intranet design and offer fresh perspectives that invigorate the internal team. They can also fill temporary skill gaps required for specific stages of the intranet redesign, such as Agile coaching, ideation, prototyping, visual design, or coding.
  • Building an Internal Team: Leaders assemble an internal team based on the specific requirements of the project. This approach involves identifying the necessary skills for the redesign and then forming a team comprising individuals from within or outside the organisation. One advantage of utilising internal employees is their ability to continue maintaining the intranet once it’s launched, ensuring ongoing dedication to the project. However, defining the required skills can be challenging, particularly during the initial stages of the project.

Note that assembling the complete intranet team may take time and might not be fully achieved in the early stages of the redesign. Initially, it is advisable to form a smaller “starter team” consisting of core skills such as information architecture, search implementation, content strategy, UX strategy, interaction design, service design, programming, user research, workshop facilitation, and intranet promotion and marketing.

State of current affairs

3. Identify the Catalyst for the Intranet Redesign

In order to anticipate potential challenges or smooth transitions, it is important to identify the underlying catalyst for your intranet redesign project. The catalysts can vary, but some common ones I’ve come across include:

  • Mergers and acquisitions
  • Organisational transformation, such as a revised strategic vision or changes in offerings
  • Rebranding of the organisation or its products and services
  • Updates or retirement of the existing intranet tools, or the adoption of new technologies desired by the organisation
  • User complaints or usability issues
  • Leadership’s decision to enhance the intranet to improve communication and support for employees

Regardless of the specific catalyst driving the redesign, all organisations must go through certain steps to ensure a beneficial and successful outcome. The nature of the catalyst can influence the complexity or simplicity of these steps in the process.

4. Review, Plan, and Conduct User Research

To ensure an informed and user-centred redesign, it is essential to review existing user research findings, plan for new research, and carry out the necessary investigations. Additionally, you need to select appropriate metrics to track improvements and determine the methods for collecting the required information.

Review Existing Research Findings: Rather than conducting research after the design is created or neglecting it altogether, research should inform the goals of the new design. Begin by reviewing the existing knowledge about the usefulness, effectiveness, efficiency, and usability of your current intranet and its integration with internal systems. Analyse user feedback and identify any gaps in research that need to be addressed.

Understanding Essential Information: In the early stages of intranet planning, it is valuable to gather certain information, such as:

  • Job roles within the organisation and their connection to core business objectives.
  • Tasks associated with those roles and how they currently align with organisational goals.
  • Evaluation of how these tasks are performed using the existing systems.
  • Assessment of how well the current systems serve employees and the organisation.
  • Identification of the reasons behind the success or shortcomings of the current systems.
  • Identification of opportunities where the intranet can enhance employee productivity, communication, and motivation.

Fill Research Gaps: If your existing research does not cover the current activities and needs of employees, it is crucial to conduct additional research, such as a discovery study, to identify areas for improvement. Additionally, research should be conducted to assess the usability of the current intranet and understand the reasons behind its effectiveness or shortcomings. Some impactful research methods to consider at this stage include:

  • Contextual inquiries with employees.
  • User interviews to gather insights.
  • Task analysis focused on specific administrative tasks and job functions.
  • Qualitative user testing of the current systems.
  • Analysis of intranet feedback and identification of frequently raised topics.
  • Site analytics for investigative purposes.

Benchmark and Measure: It is important to measure the current intranet’s effectiveness and ease of use so that you can later compare it to the redesigned version and assess improvements. Consider using the following methods to benchmark the current intranet(s) and digital workplace systems:

  • Quantitative user tests targeting top tasks.
  • Surveys to gather feedback from users, quantifying what works well, what doesn’t, and their preferences.
  • Site analytics to identify any issues.
  • Analysis of support calls to determine the number and topics requiring assistance.
  • Tracking online help requests in terms of volume and topics.

5. Assess the Organisation’s Digital Ecosystem

At the onset of the redesign process, it is crucial to gain a comprehensive understanding of the organisation’s current digital ecosystem and the tools utilised by employees. This involves conducting an inventory of internal systems, including intranets, extranets, and other tools being employed effectively or inefficiently. Additionally, consider the devices currently in use and potential future usage.

By conducting this inventory, the intranet team can identify opportunities for improvement in the new intranet and determine which tools should be retained, modified, consolidated, or replaced during the redesign process. This step ensures that the intranet aligns with the organisation’s evolving needs and optimises the digital experience for employees.

Vision and Alignment

6. Engage Stakeholders

In any design project, it is essential to actively involve and engage stakeholders, whether they are internal development teams, leadership figures, or clients who have commissioned the project. The primary objectives of involving stakeholders early in the intranet design process are to establish a shared vision and goals, and to secure agreement, support, and allocation of resources and project timelines.

Identifying intranet stakeholders involves recognising individuals who possess the ability to significantly impact the project’s success through their contributions and support. Various types of stakeholders may be involved in the redesign, each with distinct objectives and levels of influence:

  • High-power individuals who hold decision-making authority concerning time, budget, resources, and necessary tools for the intranet.
  • Representatives responsible for specific user groups, such as teams or roles they manage or support.
  • Owners accountable for specific sections, features, or content on the intranet.
  • Individual users who have personal responsibility for their corporate well-being and job.

It is crucial to ensure that stakeholders feel listened to and valued. Take the time to actively listen to stakeholders, understand their needs, and consider the interests of the groups they represent. However, it is important to note that stakeholders may not always possess an accurate understanding of the users’ needs. While they have a vested interest in addressing their constituents’ requirements, their perspectives may be somewhat removed from the actual users. To address this potential issue, always supplement stakeholders’ insights with your own direct research to obtain a comprehensive understanding of user needs.

7. Establish Alignment with Stakeholders on the Intranet Vision

The intranet should serve as a tool to help employees achieve organisational goals. To ensure alignment and prioritise work, it is crucial to get leaders to articulate the goals and agree upon the vision for the intranet. This will also influence the level of resources and support that leadership commits to the intranet. To achieve alignment with stakeholders, engage in discussions with the organisation’s leadership and other key stakeholders to gain insights into the business and gather input on the intranet vision.

Once the vision is determined, it is important to create opportunities for early socialisation of the idea of a new intranet across the organisation. Given that people tend to be resistant to change, familiarising them with the concept of a redesign can generate excitement, facilitate stakeholder buy-in, and make it easier to recruit employees for user research. Consider implementing the following strategies to promote the new intranet throughout the organisation:

  • Provide a communication kit that stakeholders can use to effectively convey the design goals to their teams.
  • Create a video showcasing the planned features and improvements for the new intranet design.
  • Organise a contest encouraging employees to suggest names for the intranet, fostering a sense of ownership and engagement.
  • Conduct an “own the page” marathon, where employees can claim specific content on the intranet, facilitating the initial content auditing process.

Setting Up Resources

8. Allocate Resources

Once the intranet vision and stakeholders’ goals have been discussed, it is essential to secure the necessary resources to bring that vision to life. At this stage, it is crucial to reach an agreement among decision-makers regarding the allocation of limited resources. The key resources to consider are time, personnel, and technology.

If you initially assembled only a starter team for the intranet, it is now time to bring together the full team, ensuring that all relevant members are included.

In certain cases, the budget, tools, and personnel resources may have already been allocated prior to the development of the intranet vision. If this is the situation, it is important to consider these resources while crafting the vision to ensure its feasibility within the existing landscape.

By allocating the necessary resources, you create a solid foundation for implementing the intranet redesign, enabling the team to effectively execute the vision and achieve the desired outcomes.

9. Develop User-Centred Resources for Regular Use by the Intranet Team

Given that many members of the Intranet team dedicate only part of their time to the project while being involved in multiple other initiatives, it is valuable to provide them with information that enables them to quickly regain context. User-centered artifacts, such as user stories or an Agile backlog, can greatly assist these team members in efficiently resuming their work and staying aligned.

These user-centered artifacts serve several important purposes:

  • Maintaining Focus: They help the intranet team stay focused on addressing the needs of the users, ensuring that their requirements remain at the forefront of the design process.
  • Informed Decision-Making: They provide valuable insights that facilitate informed design tradeoffs, guiding the team in making appropriate decisions to meet user needs.
  • Effective Prioritisation: By emphasising user-centricity, these artifacts assist the team in prioritising their work effectively, aligning their efforts with the most critical user requirements.

Commonly used user-centered artifacts include:

  1. Current-state and future-state journey maps: These visual representations provide an overview of the user’s experience with the intranet, highlighting pain points and opportunities for improvement.
  2. Personas: These fictional characters embody the characteristics, behaviors, and needs of different user groups, helping the team develop a deeper understanding of their target audience.
  3. Top tasks: Identifying and prioritising the most important tasks for users enables the team to focus their efforts on optimising these key interactions.
  4. Current-state and future-state service blueprints: These blueprints outline the end-to-end service delivery process, depicting the touchpoints between users, technology, and support systems.
  5. Jobs-to-be-done: This framework focuses on understanding the underlying motivations and goals of users when interacting with the intranet, guiding the team in designing solutions that address these specific job requirements.

To encourage the regular use of these resources, involve the entire team in their creation. Make them easily accessible by printing and posting them in both physical and online team spaces. Actively refer to these artifacts and encourage others to do the same. Incorporate them as guiding references during design reviews, ensuring that the team remains user-centred throughout the intranet development process.

10. Perform System and Operations Planning

During this phase of the project, it is crucial to focus on system and operations planning. The following key areas should be addressed:

  • Technology and Tools: Assess the organisation’s in-house skills, proficiency in programming languages, maintenance requirements, system updates, and any legacy systems that need support or replacement. Additionally, consider existing vendor contracts and determine the feasibility of utilising external tools or technologies.
  • Development Process: Decide on the development process to be employed, such as Agile, Lean UX, or Waterfall, based on the organisation’s preferences and capabilities. Evaluate the required skills and systems needed to support the chosen process. Determine the communication and tracking tools to be used for managing the team’s plans, work, and progress. Plan how to incorporate user research and iterative design, including user testing and design modifications based on research findings, throughout the design process.

Design System Planning: Establish a plan for implementing a design system, which typically includes brand guidelines, content guidelines, UI guidelines, a UI-pattern library, and code for each UI pattern. A well-defined intranet design system offers numerous benefits, such as improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the intranet team’s work, fostering better design outcomes, and ensuring consistency across the digital workplace.

11. Promote Early Awareness and Engagement

Recognising the inherent resistance to change, it is imperative to proactively introduce the idea of a new intranet to your organisation. By cultivating early awareness and engagement, you can generate enthusiasm, enable stakeholders to effectively champion the initiative within their teams, and seamlessly recruit employees for vital user research.

Understanding the significance of this step in the intranet redesign process, it becomes evident that creating a comprehensive communication and engagement strategy is paramount. By implementing initiatives such as providing stakeholders with communication kits to articulate design goals, sharing informative videos showcasing the envisioned intranet, organising creative contests for naming suggestions, and fostering a collective effort to claim content during an “own the page” marathon, you can effectively build momentum and garner support for the upcoming redesign.

Recognise that by investing time and effort into promoting early awareness and engagement, you lay a solid foundation for success, ensuring that your intranet redesign project gains the necessary traction, advocates, and valuable insights from your organisation’s diverse stakeholders.

Conclusion

Embarking on an intranet redesign project involves more than just design and technical considerations. It requires extensive outreach, effective communication, and diplomatic engagement to ensure the active involvement, valuable input, and unwavering support of diverse stakeholders. While the contributions of many are essential, a strong leader takes charge and drives the process forward, guiding the team towards success.

For intranet teams and leaders, the prospect of a redesign may initially seem daunting. However, by leveraging this comprehensive guide as a roadmap, you can navigate the intricate journey ahead and make steady progress towards your goals. It’s crucial to remember that the planning steps elucidated in this article have been tried and tested in numerous successful intranet projects. By embracing user-centered principles and approaching the redesign with determination and focus, you have the power to create a truly impactful intranet that aligns with your organisation’s vision and objectives.

Embrace the opportunity before you, rise above any challenges, and embark on your intranet redesign journey with confidence. With careful planning, effective communication, and unwavering commitment, you have the potential to achieve remarkable outcomes and revolutionise your organisation’s digital workplace.

How can Vantage 365 help you?

At Vantage 365, we strongly believe that the key to a successful Digital Workplace lies in fostering effective communication and collaboration. By bringing these two essential elements together, we create a more engaging and inclusive employee experience that drives productivity and innovation.

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